Children + work

I’ve just returned from a council meeting, with Gilby in tow, that was both stressful and interesting. Low point was him driving a car over the head of the (slightly older) lady sat next to me. Oh, and pulling his pants down. It did reinforce the need for working and meeting space, that includes flexible childcare though. Which incidentally, is exactly why I was there.

I left my job because I was unable to balance parenting & a career. It’s a common problem. Research by Digital Mums found that of the women that leave the workforce, 70% said they found it impossible to combine their career and family life. 800k women are self-employed and work part time in the UK and in 2014 mums that are entrepreneurs (I refuse to use the terrible mumpre… phrase) contributed £7.2bn to the economy. And as more people like me evaluate their life choices, you can be sure that these figures will continue to grow.

Having chosen to make myself unemployed, I followed a well-trodden path in to freelance work. Bristol is the second largest freelance city in the UK, and the South West as a whole has the highest proportion of home-workers in the country. Soon in to my first month of gainful (self) employment I started to miss being in an inspiring work environment and speaking to other people! It was actually rather lonely.

I began exploring the idea of setting up an inclusive co-working space and speaking to my sister-in-law Katie about her childcare struggles when setting up mush, decided childcare needed to included. I quickly discovered a brilliant group of Freelance Mums in Bristol that were exploring a similar idea. And after autumn’s trials and tribulations, I am pleased to say that we’re now working together to make this happen.

Stage one has involved a lot of desk-based research to scope out what’s already available and refining the vision. There are a handful of co-working nurseries dotted around the country, but none that encapsulate the entire vision. When I think about our ‘why’, it’s about enabling parents to have the career that they want, whilst being the parents that they want to be. There shouldn’t need to be a compromise. In today’s connected world, with the technology that we all use day-to-day, it’s farcical that work & childcare remain so static & rigid. And it can be so hard for mums in particular to start their own business due to the strain that finding childcare puts on us.

Outlining the problem has been the easy bit. Figuring out how we’re actually going to make it happen, is trickier! Right now we are looking to meet as many relevant people as possible to begin conversations on funding, whilst evolving the offering. A key element of our space will be around social inclusion: those that can afford to pay to use the space will help support those that can’t (financially but also through mentoring and knowledge sharing). We’ll create commercial partnerships to underpin this proposition, but community will be at the heart. As a city, I feel proud that Bristol has a strong heritage for diversity and social integration. And believe that we have a wonderful opportunity as a city to show how something like this can be both commercial and socially inclusive.

So what next? More research, more meetings and hopefully a temporary pop-up space to test & evolve the concept further. It’s a wonderful feeling to not only unearth my sense of purpose, but also find other people that share the vision. But it’s safe to say that 2017’s goal will be to bring a co-working space, with childcare, to Bristol. And Gilby won’t be coming to any other meetings with me for fear of him scuppering the whole blinking thing!